Question: Highly recommended restaurants often fall short of our expectations. This was not the case with Cafe Terra Cotta in Tucson, Ariz., where the meal was memorable and the gazpacho outstanding. Will the Cafe share its gazpacho recipe?
- Anne Holland, Manhattan, Kan.Answer: From earliest times, the American Indian settlement in which the San Xavier del Bac Mission is located was called Bac, the "place where the water appears," because the Santa Cruz River, which ran underground for some distance, reappeared on the surface nearby. Out-of-towners make the nine-mile trek south of Tucson to the mission, which is possibly the most photographed and beloved building in Arizona.
Completed by the Franciscans in 1797, the "White Dove of the Desert" is an outstanding example of mission architecture, its white domes, arches and parapets seamlessly blending Moorish, Byzantine and late Mexico Renaissance. Wood is used only in window and door frames, and every nook and cranny is meticulously painted. Many Southwesterners have made a pilgrimage to a reclining statue of St. Francis Xavier to the left of the main altar.
Two lionlike images on either side of the communion rail represent the "Lions of Castille," a tribute to the reigning family in Spain during the 1780s and 1790s. On the hill to the east of the Mission is a replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France.
To further experience the Southwest, sample the contemporary Southwestern cuisine served at Cafi Terra Cotta in Tucson. The Cafe's salmon cakes with tomatillo salsa, smoked lamb chops on sun-dried cherry Chipotle sauce, blue corn spoonbread and mile-high gazpacho are examples of traditional dishes enlivened with innovative Southwestern flavor.
Gazpacho is a hot-weather favorite, but given Southwest temperatures, out-of-towners enjoy it year-round. Use yellow bell peppers, when available, for additional color and flavor, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of coarsely chopped cilantro. For dramatic presentation, layer ingredients in a glass and unmold the vegetable "towers" in a deep plate or shallow bowl.
6 medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 medium white onions (divided use)
5 cups tomato juice (divided use)
2 medium red bell peppers, seeded
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded
2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 poblano chile, seeded and deveined
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place tomatoes and 1 onion in work bowl of food processor (or blender) and puree, adding 1 to 2 cups tomato juice as needed for processing. Set aside. Dice red bell pepper, green bell pepper, cucumbers, poblano chile and remaining onion and set aside. Place vinegar, oil and garlic in large nonmetal mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Stir in diced vegetables and tomato puree. Add remaining tomato juice and stir until well blended. Whisk in salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cover and chill in refrigerator. Yields 2 to 4 servings.